The Roaches


Memories from the Scotland walking trip - 2011

A bumper turnout for this year's event with three new recruits and a return to the fold for the famous Terry.

At £44 per night dinner, bed and breakfast offer at the Ben Nevis Hotel in Fort William was too good an offer to miss so we all booked in dribs and drabs, sorted out transport and travelled up on the Thursday for three night's accommodation and two walks.

Terry had recovered from his heart operation and had trained on Helvellyn and Snowdon in readiness for a bigger Scottish hill. He would make a decision on the day but we all knew he'd jump at the chance of peaking out in Scotland.

DAY 1 - FRIDAY

Jon had mentioned that Bidean nam Bian in Glencoe was on his 'to do list' so, as I'd only done it twice before, we decided that it'd be a decent workout and the chance for me to add the previously unconquered Stob Coire Sgreamhach to my Munro tick list.

Terry decided that he'd be on for this so we met up at the main Glencoe car park and set off at 10:20am. Terry decided that putting his waterproof bottoms on back to front would be the order of the day until Ratboy and Mark noticed tightness around his arse and a slightly puffy bollock section. Terry then decided to put them on properly.

A coach load of girls arrived just as we set off with a couple of modelesque quality objects kicking off a long list of spaff-related jokes. They watched in awe as us brave mountain men ascended into the dark craggy depths that protect the peak of the mountains.

The weather forecast was good but as we know that means nothing in Scotland where the weather can vary massively between glens. A few of us waterproofed up as light rain was blowing in and it didn't look too good but, as usual, the initial sweaty climb resulted in a mass de-waterproofing as we ascended up to Coire nan Lochan.



Mark and Ratboy look up at the day's objective whilst Terry wonders why he can hardly move in his waterproof bottoms.

The heavy rain that had blighted Scotland for weeks meant that the streams and rivers made for great viewing. Water was spewing from all angles and what would be normally playful autumnal streams were raging cascades.



A view up to Coire nan Lochan with Stob Coire nan Lochan in cloud. Bidean nam Bian can't be seen from Glencoe itself.

Rich, sporting the all too common beige walking gear, came in and out of view depending on the colour of the surrounding foliage. Ratboy and Jim maintained a steady pace at the front with the rest of us spread out behind. We had all day - no rush.

I'd noticed a group of walkers ascending the hill on the other side of Glencoe and assumed that they were heading for the famous Aonach Eagach ridge so as we ascended I made regular glances over the glen to see if they were visible.



There they are! - the walkers on the Aonach Eagach walking from right to left. They'd just negotiated the descent from Am Bodach which for many is the worst part of the challenge.

Terry was maintaining a steady pace and was helped by regular stops caused by Aonach Eagach walker spotting and cascade viewing. My right boot was beginning to feel tight which was a signal that my ankle was swelling up. I'd been having physio on the bloody thing for a few weeks and was told not to walk if possible but Jim provided a couple of anti-inflammatory pills and things soon improved.



Mark and Terry on the ascent to Coire nan Lochan.

We reached a point where the path split and made a decision to continue up into the corrie. The route into the corrie favoured an ascent of the eastern arm of Stob Coire nan Lochan but on reaching the corrie the consensus was to aim for the western arm (which would have been easily gained by taking the split route).

My rucsac was beginning to feel incredibly heavy but Rich spotted the problem when capturing a shot of an impressive waterfall:



Crikey - my back's sweating a lot for some reason....

We reached the three small lochans in the coire (hence the name) and proceeded to cross the lochan outlets using various routes. Terry was unsure about whether to continue or not as the summit of the day's first peak, Stob Coire nan Lochan (1115m) was another 1100ft up and covered in mist.



Terry looks at the route ahead and wonders if turning back may be the better option. The team discuss options.

Terry was feeling tired and didn't want to risk walking further and higher in case he felt even more knackered and had even further to descend. He was also conscious that he was slowing us down and, as we'd set off a tad later than usual, may incur the use of head torches later on in the day.

Terry, rightly, decided that climbing up to 2600ft was enough for the day so decided to return to the car. Mark decided to walk Terry down so that was the end of his day's climbing.



'You can fuck that for a game of soldiers Bondy'.

We carried onto the western arm of the hill which in retrospect could have been far more ankle unfriendly than it was. We reached the ridge and decided it was time for lunch.



Rich gazes down to Glencoe village whilst eating his lunch. His stealth suit rendering him invisible from below.

Lunch eaten, it was time for the climb up to Stob Coire nan Lochan. The 800ft ascent was an enjoyable rocky affair with glimpses off the ridge into the corrie below.



Let the climb commence! The rocky western arm of Stob Coire nan Lochan.

The final couple of hundred feet were steep, blocky but good fun and at times it looked like the cloud would be clearing any time soon.

On reaching the summit the cloud cleared enough to give us a glimpse of the descent to the col and the subsequent climb to the day's highest peak - Bidean nan Bian. The climb to Bidean looks worse than it actually is and after winding our way around rocks and ledges we reached the summit in dribs and drabs. Me being a drab at the back.



Rich and Jon meet Brucie on the summit of Bidean.



Rich, Ratboy, Jon and Jim on the summit. Jon's saying 'If I was to fall over later in the day, I'd fall over there'.

By the time we reached the col between Bidean and Sgreamhach it was decided to drop into the Lost Valley as nobody wanted to walk the last section in the dark which may have been the case if we'd have included Sgreamhach. I'd ascended by the Lost Valley a few years back with Ken and Terry and knew that a loose rocky descent was to follow.

The initial descent is steep and loose and not particularly suitable for blokes with dodgy ankles but, amazingky, we descended this section without incident.



The descent from the col. Definitely not yomping territory.

Small sections of repaired path, which I'd seen workers on years back, were visible on the descent but it was hard to see what difference the hard work had made as a few yards of carefully placed blocks was followed by rough stone and gravel.

The descent was going well until suddenly, Jon slipped. We all thought he'd arrested his fall but he then followed the arresting movement with a spot of highland break dancing. A few of us asked if was OK which appeared to surprise Jon as he felt he'd managed to maintain a reasonable level of decorum during the fall. He hadn't - he looked like a giant pissed up Kingfisher crashing into the ground!



A rare sighting of the Large Highland Kingfisher (just above centre) seen shortly before his wings deserted him. You can also play 'Where's Richy?'. He's in there somewhere.

After descending for a wee while we reached the strange upland meadow that is the Lost Valley. This is where the MacDonald clan hid their cattle and many of them escaped to during the Glencoe massacre (and perished).



Rich cries as he remembers the events of 1692 where his great, great , great, great, great grandfather died in the massacre. He fell off a musket-tower.

We marched towards the lip of the upper valley and then followed the 'path' into an area of huge boulders. I'd ascended via this route a few years back but had forgotten where the path went. It certainly didn't cross the boulder field but we were in good spirits so why not give it a go?

One of the main reasons for not giving it a go was the fact that it was absolutely shit. Many of the boulders were 8-10ft high with some of them passable by pushing between them and others that had to be climbed with a resulting jump\slide off. Jon, now feeling rather Captain Scarlet-like, decided to climb over one of the largest boulders and then attempt a jump\fall off the other side onto a patch of gravel that sloped back towards the boulder and a subterranean stream. Jon teetered on the brink before retreating after deciding that any fall into the underground stream would result in him being flushed out of the bottom of Malham Cove in two days time.

The odd fallen tree branch made life harder by managing to lie at the worst height possible for safe negotiation and the safe carriage of one's testicles. At one point the Ratboy fell backwards and cut his hand whilst trying to prevent a fall into a gap between boulders. It was all happening - the cries emanating from stretched tendons, ligaments and muscles could be heard in the village.

The strenuous nature of the descent forced some to question the ability of farmers to herd cattle up into the Lost Valley. They'd forgotten that the farmers and cattle of yesteryear weren't big spazs like us but the disbelief remained.

We finally came across a path and, after marching through a stream, soon reached the safety of the car park and Terry and Mark.

A quick pint was enjoyed in the Clachaig before the drive back to Fort William, the pool, sauna and the bar.

DAY 2 - SATURDAY

I woke up to rain and a sore ankle so decided that walking was a no no. The rest of the team decided to have a quick wet yomp up to the Steall Falls in Glen Nevis. I decided to drive up to Mallaig and catch a ferry to Skye where I managed to miss the morning ferry.

So, not a lot to report so here's a few shots from each trip:



The Steall Falls in full pelt.



The Glenfinnan monument in full kilt.

So, an enjoyable weekend was had by all.

Where to next year? Will Rich and Jim become regulars? Will Terry give up his Scottish boots? Will Jon learn to fly? Will my ankles stop pissing me off?

Tune in next year!

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